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Posted on August 4, 2012 by in Trinity Bellwoods


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4 Stars

– Crepes aren’t just for dessert folks.  That’s what Dewey Truong, owner of Chococrepe wants you to know.  Yes, they are paper thin, but they aren’t as one dimensional when it comes to their meal potential.  Walking into the Queen West restaurant on a hot summer day, the last thing that I wanted to eat for lunch was a Nutella and chocolate smeared crepe, so it’s a good thing there was so much more on the menu. 

Don’t let the name fool you.  At Chococrepe, the menu is divided into savoury and sweet options.  So yes, they do offer the obligatory Nutella crepe along with a slew of other sinfully sweet creations, but they also have an impressive selection of crepes with fillings usually associated with sandwiches or wraps.

To start off we had the Pesto ($9.25) which came with egg, mozzarella , pesto and arugula served on a buckwheat crepe.  Now I’m not an eggs anytime of the day person as I lump them into the breakfast only category, so this probably wouldn’t be my go to crepe, but it was tasty nevertheless.  The egg was fluffy, the pesto made its presence known without stealing the show, and arugula is never a bad idea. 

All of the savoury menu items come served on buckwheat crepes which are a bit similar to whole wheat wraps in their texture and consistency.  Despite the name though, it’s interesting to note that buckwheat is gluten free, so while I can’t speak for the filling, the crepe itself is a good option for those who are at least sensitive to gluten.

To round out our savoury options we tried the Country and the Chipotle Chicken (both $9.25).  The Country comes stuffed with cheddar and punctuated with wood-smoked bacon and caramelized pear.  I’m not even a huge fan of bacon (I know…sorry) but I loved this crepe.  The saltiness of the cheddar, the smokiness of the bacon and the sweetness of the pear blended so nicely into a ménage a trois of flavour. (What?  It’s French…like crepes…)

The Chipotle Chicken though, with a generous amount of tender chicken breast, mozzarella, arugula, and chipotle mayo, might have been the winner, but I like anything that comes served with a side of heat.

At this point it’s fair to say we were beyond full, and I was convinced that yes, crepes could be lunch, but it wouldn’t be fair of us to ignore the dessert crepes completely.  So we tried two.  The Berry Banana ($8.75) is the Platonic ideal of a dessert crepe.  Covered with sliced strawberries and bananas, then drizzled with dark and white chocolate, it looks like art (think Jackson Pollock).  This crepe had a nice balance of tart, thanks to the strawberries, and sweet, thanks to everything else. 

Our last crepe of the day came in the form of Crunchy Pear ($8.50), also beautiful in design with sliced Bosch pears, a generous sprinkling of crushed almonds, and painted with milk chocolate, it was a bit sweeter than the Berry Banana due in part to the milk chocolate, but won in the texture category.

All of the dessert crepes here are made with the typical sweetened wheat flour and served open-face which gives diners the artistic license to fold, roll, or just dive in as is.  And it just looks prettier.

 Oh, and I should mention that all of the crepes are huge, taking up plates that are larger than your average plate.  My suggestion is to bring a friend, or two, and sample multiple crepes like we did.

Did I forget to mention the hot chocolate?  Oh yes, we sampled a couple.  They take their hot chocolate seriously here at Chococrepe.  All flavours are made with melted Valhrona chocolate and you can have your choice of having it made with dark or milk chocolate (and in some cases, white) and with cream or milk. We really wanted to try the popular Fleur de Sel Dulce de Leche made with dark chocolate, but sadly it was unavailable, so we went with the Pumpkin and the Coconut.  The Pumpkin ($5.95) was made with milk chocolate, so as not to overpower the spice and milk instead of its heavier counterpart.  It was tasty, but I would liken it more to a chai latte than a hot chocolate.

The Coconut (also $5.95) however, made with white chocolate and cream was something else.  It was rich without being cloyingly sweet and the coconut flavour came through nicely.  I can definitely see myself going back for one of these once the temperature starts to drop, but if you’re craving one now, Truong just installed a brand new air-conditioning system that he’s very proud of. 

I would also be remiss not to comment on the excellent service at Chococrepe.  Truong himself is a living doll, and he goes out of his way to make your experience at Chococrepe a memorable one.  He obviously loves what he is doing, and says that he wants eating at his restaurant to be a comfortable and social experience, not to mention a delicious one.  Check, check, and check.

Footnote:  Why doesn’t the saying go “as flat as a crepe”?  Let’s face it, in comparison, the crepes pancake cousin from the West has a bit of a weight problem.

– Rebecca

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Five Doors North

Posted on March 16, 2012 by in Davisville

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5 stars

- Five Doors North is my neighbourhood spot. I have visited it on several occasions, and each time I leave, I debate whether sharing this place with the world is worth having to wait for a table during an already busy dinner rush. My conscience prevails, as 5 Doors North is too great of a restaurant not to review, and share with my fellow TOFoodReviews readers.

A spur of the moment, “Thursday night out” decision, led Andy and I to Five Doors North, knowing we would get a great meal. We were seated in the front area of the dining room, perfect for people watching along the Eglinton-Davisville and Yonge street corridor. The furnishings are worn, kitschy, and mismatched, but only add to the warmth and charm of the restaurant.  The restaurant menu is hand-written and photocopied, followed by an evolving list of specials on the chalkboard, which are carefully selected, and always guaranteed to be great.

The wine list is small and filled with some robust reds. I ordered the Pinot Noir, which I have to say, just didn’t do it for me, it was a bit thin and wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. Andy’s Malbec was fabulous, so we both ordered another glass for the second round. Wines by the glass are anywhere from $7 to $11, and bottles in the $30-$50 range. Overall, wines are priced fairly well, but I would love to see a little more variety to match the diverse food menu.

The appetizer list is long, and everything sounds incredible. They have smoked salmon, Prosciutto, mussels, a delicious polenta dish, on top of the list of daily specials, which included cauliflower soup, avocado bruschetta, and crab cakes. We went with the soup, beef Carpaccio with Pecorino cheese & roasted onion, and the beet salad. First out was the roasted beet salad with scallion aioli & lotus chips, which was wonderful, the goat cheese soft and warm, and the beets sweet and crunchy. The roasted cauliflower soup was smoky and creamy, but not too heavy; a perfect start to the meal, and the beef Carpaccio was some of the best, the cheese and onion offsetting the beef perfectly.

For our mains, I ordered the gnocchi Gorgonzola special and Andy the braised brisket ravioli. The meals were incredible. The gnocchi was awesome, fresh and soft, but the real winner was the Gorgonzola cream sauce. So creamy, it certainly blew my cheese calorie allotment for the week, but so worth it. Garnished with scallions and fresh pepper, the meal needed nothing more to bring out the strong flavours in the Gorgonzola.

The braised brisket ravioli was probably one of the more interesting meals we have ever had. I was unsure what to expect, but the beef was perfect, melt-in-your-mouth, wrapped in fresh pasta, with beef au jus and cream to make up the ravioli sauce. It would be worth phoning in advance to see if this was on the specials menu, as this dish just has to be tried.

The prices are right, entrées run from $14-$20, with appetizers in the $8-$12 range. The service is extremely friendly, with everyone pitching in to seat, serve and check-in. It’s a family run restaurant, and you can tell by the attitudes and the recommendations of the staff that they all love the food at Five Doors North as much as you will.

- Janine

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Aux Delices Cafe de Bayview

Posted on February 4, 2012 by in North York

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5 Stars

- If you are on your way to go shopping at Bayview Village, and you need to stop for a quick bite, look no further than Aux Delices Café.

Situated at the main entrance of Bayview, now in its third year of business at the mall, and judging by the patrons that came through in our lengthy Saturday afternoon visit, this place is a hit with the locals. Being situated in a bit more of an upscale mall, Aux Delices caters to their clientele. Health conscious foodies will delight in their selection of fresh, gourmet ingredients, including Panini’s, pastas, crepes, salads, and even specialties like duck l’orange and homemade gelato, just to name a few. There menu is ever changing, depending on seasonal availability, so there is always something new to try at Aux Delices.

We started our meal with the fresh manicotti and roasted mushroom caps, duck l’orange with mushroom and greens, and roasted eggplant salad. Everything tasted like fresh, home cooking. The manicotti ($6.50) was amazing, with melt-in-your-mouth ricotta, and ripe tomatoes that tasted like they were picked form the garden that morning. The stuffed Portobello mushroom cap with cheese and polenta was an awesome side dish, complementing the Italian flavours in the manicotti, but would be great as an entrée on its own.

The duck l’orange was cooked perfectly, tender and succulent, the sauce was sweet and tangy, and the accompanying side salads of oyster mushrooms and greens, and roasted eggplant were in a league of their own. I would have returned just to try a sampling of all their fresh veggie salads.

Next up, a roasted vegetable Panini, recommended by our host. The yellow pepper, red onion and eggplant were soft and easy to eat, with a nice portion of goat cheese on lovely focaccia bread. Moving into crepe territory, we decided to tackle the ham and cheese crepe ($9.50), with tomatoes as well, and would go back for more. Their crepes are light and fluffy, and packed with ingredients. Even better, your crepe is made right in front of you, and you can add any ingredients you like. A fun experience for kids, too.

For those looking for the “café” experience, they serve up delightful illy coffee, and Rahier desserts, that almost make you feel like you are dining in Europe. Their double espressos were great, nice and bold, and the latte was perfect, frothy and steamed to perfection. The homemade gelato was amazing. I love ice cream, and have been a latecomer to the gelato trend, but I am glad that I tried it. We sampled the chocolate, vanilla and pistachio, a must when having gelato, and they were all very well done. The vanilla and chocolate especially, both true to their flavours, with a natural, nuttier taste, rather than overtly sweet.

Aux Delices Café offers a fabulous dining experience, and allows you to stop in for a fast and easy meal, or linger over a cup of coffee and a pastry. All of their meals are available to go, making it a great option to stop in after work for a ready-made meal.

Gourmet meals ready as soon as you order, great coffee and homemade gelato should have you stopping for a break on your next shopping trip.

- Janine

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The Mascot

Posted on January 27, 2012 by in Parkdale

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3 Stars

- Sometimes I ride the 501 streetcar just for something to do.  It’s a fun way to people watch, without really having to watch out for them, but it’s also a great way to spot new businesses, or old ones for that matter.  The past couple of times I took this trip, I wondered what was in the chalkboard-black building on the corner of Queen and Elm Grove.  I assumed it was a gallery given it was such a big space, and I was half right.  The Mascot is a coffee shop that showcases art…or an art gallery that serves coffee, depending on what you’re going for I guess.  I myself was going for the coffee.

At first the place is a bit daunting.  It’s quite large, with a lot of negative space, and very limited seating.  There are two barstools at the counter, a few tables that can seat more than one, and a surprisingly comfy blue velvet couch in the front room, but patrons need to be ready to get creative if all of those are taken.  The back room, which houses the artwork offers up a couple Victorian chairs for those who feel like working on their posture, an old elementary school chair/desk combo, and a springy antique rocking horse (???).  I’m not quite sure if that last option is for display only, or for those who like their coffee with a little bouncy nostalgia, but I for one wasn’t about to find out.  I used to have one of those horses, and I remember getting pinched by the damn springs on a regular basis.  Luckily for us, there was a free table.

My girlfriend ordered a latte while I went with just a basic drip to see what Reunion Island coffee is like in its most vulnerable state.  I should’ve went with the latte.  Not that the drip was bad, but the latte was fantastic. It was smooth and strong without being bitter. The Rosetta adorning the foam was a nice touch as well.  (It should be noted that I went back a few days later for my very own).

As it was around the brunch hour, and breakfast had long worn off we decided to get a couple of treats to go with our coffee.  The edible portion of the menu at The Mascot is provided by OMG Baked Goods, and like the seating, selection is limited.  The cupcakes were tempting but we were in the mood for savoury, so we ordered a ham & cheese quiche along with a stuffed foccacia.

The quiche arrived looking a little bit sad and we faced off as to who would try it first.  We both agreed that it was tastier than we would have guessed, but I’ve definitely had better quiche.  The stuffed foccacia on the other hand was a nice surprise.  It didn’t come to the table looking like much… really just a bun on a plate.  But as with all things stuffed, it’s what’s inside that counts.  Filled with roasted peppers, artichokes and Asiago cheese, it was not unlike a grown-up Hot Pocket…one that got tired of all the negative attention so it moved out of its parents freezer, and adopted a healthier lifestyle.  The quiche was pushed aside, but later finished – out of hunger alone.

Food however is an afterthought at The Mascot.  From what I saw, the people of Parkdale go for the coffee, and rightly so.  There was a steady stream of people coming and going, and judging by the interactions, quite a few regulars.  With friendly laid-back staff, good ambience and amazing lattes, I would make it my local too – if only I lived anywhere near it.

Footnote:  Seating doubles in the warmer months, when it’s comfortable enough to sit on the driftwood looking bench that runs the length of their storefront.  Another good place to do some people watching.

- Rebecca

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Mitzi’s Cafe

Posted on November 18, 2011 by in Roncesvalles Village

3 stars

- For the past year or so, I’ve been meaning to go to Mitzi’s Cafe for brunch.  Weekends however, draw a big crowd and my nine-to-five job prevented me from going during the week and avoiding said crowd.  Fortunately, having resigned from my job to be a writer (see: unemployed) I am now afforded the luxury of going to brunch on say, a Tuesday…which is exactly what I did this week.

I love Mitzi’s location.  Tucked away on a quiet corner of Sorauren, surrounded by century homes, purple and yellow painted Mitzi’s is a bit out-of-place, but that’s the appeal.  I have a thing for old neighbourhood general stores, and that’s what Mitzi’s reminds me of.  Inside looked exactly how I both expected and hoped for; arborite tables with mismatched chairs, a glass display case that housed trays of muffins at the time, and walls adorned with local art.  I really, really wanted to like this place.

And like it I did, however my friend was less than satisfied with her experience.  Let’s start with mine shall we?  Mitzi’s has a small but thoughtful menu, and I had previously perused it online, so I knew exactly what I wanted.  Craving sweet over savoury, I ordered the French toast as planned ($10.95).  Made with Challah bread it is then topped with a peach & ginger compote, covered in graham cracker crumbs and generously doused with real maple syrup (the last step done by yours truly).  It was fantastic.  The bread was thick and fluffy, and the compote had just the right amount of ginger in it.  It had all the makings of a dessert…in a breakfast.  It should be noted that this dish is typically served with whipped cream, but I decided it was too much of an indulgence (says the person who used so much syrup as to make her French toast wish it had signed up for swimming lessons).

Sitting just adjacent to the expanding pool of syrup, but not completely out of its reach, were the home fries, which offset the sweetness of the French toast nicely.  Made with halved baby potatoes they were spiced perfectly.  My only complaint is that there weren’t more of them, but it’s probably for the best in the long run.  If the toast itself was the star of the show, then the home fries were the understudy.

As I had already had my morning coffee I chased all of this with a glass of their homemade orange/banana/mango juice.  It was just thick enough to know it was the real thing, and at $3 I think it was good value.

The glowing endorsement ends with my friends order.  She was so looking forward to her poached eggs (also $10.95).  Served on Portuguese cornbread, topped with wilted spinach,  and slathered in roasted red pepper & asiago sauce, it looked delicious when set down in front of her, but as she cut into the egg with her fork, the yolk failed to flow.  Her poached eggs weren’t poached at all… they were hard-boiled.  Cue the violins. Tasty yes, but it wasn’t what she wanted, and the accompanying rye bread would fail to serve its dipping duty.

This would have been a 4 star review had I made it a solo trip, but alas the poached eggs (or lack thereof) knocked it down a peg.  Mitzi’s is still worth a visit though for the French toast (and I hear the Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes are pretty killer too), but if it’s poached eggs you crave, be specific,…if only for the sake of your toast and its reason for being.

– Rebecca

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Posted on October 4, 2011 by in Yonge and Eglinton

4 stars

- Coquine Restaurant serves up an excellent weekend brunch, with all the charm and flavour of a European patio café. The restaurant is decked out art-deco style, with lots of white tile, dark wood and vintage posters lining the walls. Coquine boasts several large dining rooms and a quaint patio, perfect for people watching or a leisurely meal. A large group of us descended on Coquine one Sunday morning for a late brunch, and found the menu to be both classic and eclectic. Let me explain…

Traditional Sunday morning brunch normally sees a line-up of the usuals; pancakes, omelets and waffles. While Coquine serves up all of these items, they do it all with a pronounced French flavour, not afraid of adding a little gourmet to your breakfast.  Coquine’s wonderful Apple Jack’s ($11) offers up a stack of fluffy pancakes, topped with delectable caramelized apple and maple syrup. The delightful Vanilla French Toast ($12) is flavoured with fresh vanilla bean and served with a berry compote and Chambord. The Steak Frites ($19) were delicious, and came with a side of Parmesan truffle fries and mayo. While you may not be able to fly to Paris for weekend brunch, you can certainly enjoy the savoury French-style cuisine just south of Yonge and Eglinton.

Everyone found their meals to be excellent, and I can personally attest to both the quality and quantity of the wild mushroom and shallot Quiche with chévre ($14). Coffee (and Bailey’s) was always available, and attentive extras like water for the group, and non-stop breadbaskets make the service at Coquine both pleasant and under-stated.

Overall, the value for meals was very good, as portions were large, and fit for sharing. Both the hostess and the server were polite and attentive, but never obvious. With an excellent location between Davisville and Eglinton subway stops, and great food and service, Coquine should be on your list as a must-try for weekend brunch.

- Janine

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Uncle Betty’s Diner

Posted on July 11, 2011 by in Yonge and Lawrence

Uncle Bettys Sign

3 stars

- Uncle Betty’s is a family foodie heaven: the sole Toronto provider of New York’s famous Dreesen’s doughnuts, a colourful ice cream and dessert bar, warm and fuzzy comfort food, and a small selection of beer and wine for the grown-ups in the crowd, all make this a popular place for parents and kids alike. Uncle Betty’s has only been open for a few months, but it already seems to have garnered a dedicated following. We went to Uncle Betty’s on a bustling Friday night, looking for a casual meal and easy-going atmosphere; Uncle Betty’s certainly provided both. Painted in bright blue and cheery orange, lots of seating inside, and a small patio off the front, we felt right at home. Several families were enjoying meals with their kids in tow As the evening wore on though, most of those families were replaced with twenty and thirty-somethings looking for a cool place to hang out.

Offering sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, salads, and many other of Uncle Betty’s specialty creations, the menu is fairly extensive and varied. We ordered the roasted vegetable sandwich with a salad, and the grilled cheese sandwich, which was made with homemade mac-and-cheese and meatloaf stuffed inside. Their grilled cheese also comes in a pulled pork variety, which I am sure we will try on our next outing. Both meals were great, the vegetable sandwich was warm, the cheese was nicely melted, and the bread was crisp. The grilled cheeses sandwich was deemed as one of the “best ever,” however, the portion size was on the small side for a $15 sandwich. Both of us agreed that the sandwich could be a little bigger, but overall we were impressed with the quality and creative effort put into the food.

For dessert, we each tried a Dreesen’s cinnamon sugar doughnut, made fresh on site, and although they were pretty tasty, I am setting my sights on the ice cream bar next time. It is far too bright and colourful to miss, with jars of candy toppings and a great selection of ice cream flavours to choose from.

The service was friendly and attentive, and we had a conversation with the owner, Samara Melanson, as we were leaving. Samara and her husband recently opened the restaurant, and it’s always great to meet the owner while dining out and learn about the creation of the restaurant and where some of the ideas for the food come from. She told us that chef Paul Lampa was brought over from Coquine restaurant, which explains the “gourmet” comfort food bent and the locally sourced ingredients.

Most appetizers are priced from 6 – 10 dollars; entrees varied in price from about 9 – 15 dollars, and wine and beer was in the 6 – 8 range. And Uncle Betty’s carries Kicking Horse coffee, which is an instant sell and a welcome find for this Toronto-transplanted Western girl.

Betty’s also offers what looks to be a delicious weekend brunch, with homestyle blueberry pancake and Uncle Betty’s own take on eggs benny, which comes served on a doughnut.  We will definitely be back to Uncle Betty’s to try some of the other great entrees on the menu, and  of course to dig into their ice cream bar.

– Janine

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Hula Girl Espresso Boutique

Posted on May 17, 2011 by in The Junction Triangle

Hula Girl

5 stars

- Man. This whole area is pretty packed with coffee shops. Just up the road in The Junction, there’s Crema, The Good Neighbour, and a Starbucks; just down the road in Roncys, there’s Alternative Grounds, Coffee and All that Jazz, and yet another Starbucks. And that’s just to name a few… The neighbourhood, it seems, is littered with coffee shops. So how does Hula Girl stack up against all the rest of them? Really, really nicely.

Hula Girl isn’t just another boring-old coffee shop; it’s an ‘espresso boutique’, and they focus their boutique-ish expertise on blends of Kona coffee beans and turning those blends of beans into near-perfect cups of espresso. The owners are clearly not only passionate about coffee, but knowledgeable about it too; it becomes blatantly obvious with the first sip. The espresso is noticeably balanced and brewed with a high-level of skill. Simply put, they have some truly nice people that are dam good at pulling espressos standing behind their shiny brewing machine.

No worries if espresso isn’t your thing. They have some of their Kona blends brewed and served as the standard coffee fare too, which is also seriously good. They’ve got a nice window at the front counter with some baked goods. There isn’t much there right now, as I think they’ve only recently started serving food, but it sure would look good stocked with some interesting, local pastries and deserts.

The space is beautiful too. Chances are, after you pick up an espresso you’re going to want to stay for a bit and soak up some of the killer atmosphere. Old wood, exposed brick, shiny chrome, the entire space is exquisitely designed and faultlessly put together. Fair warning though, the insides may be pretty to look at, but they sure aren’t big. It’s ok though. What Hula Girl lacks in space, it makes up in comfort. Sitting around Hula Girl and sipping an espresso just feels good. The space is nice, and there’s a few wooden chairs and a little bar space where relaxing music, a comfortable vibe, and fantastic coffee is all in abundance.

Chances are, they’ll be busy too. People around here seem to have already shifted their morning-coffee-loyalties over to Hula Girl, and that’s a good thing, for Hula Girl and you. Somehow, in this small environment, more people just make it feel cozier, which you’ll appreciate. And obviously it’s good for Hula Girl because they get to succeed and stick-around, and honestly, there isn’t much that’s nicer to see succeed than an independent business run by nice people.

Good on the folks at Hula Girl for opening up on this tired part of Dundas with its old pizza joints and 2 dollar palm reading shops. This street really needed a place like this, and no doubt the people that live there will appreciate it too. Especially among all the artsy stuff that’s crept up around here, pizza and palm-readings aside, Hula Girl seems perfectly at home.

Like I said, the coffee is spectacular. So if you want some near-perfect espresso made by people that truly know what that means, then Hula Girl should be on your to-do-list; but if you’re looking for a place to grab a donut and suck up some free-WiFi, keep walking up the street to The Junction or down the street to Roncys.

- Andre

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P.S. Kona beans come from Hawaii, which is where the hula girl gimmick gets it’s ground.

Holy Oak Cafe

Posted on April 17, 2011 by in Bloordale

3 stars

- Despite it’s seemingly religious name, this little cafe has nothing to do religion. It’s a little cafe chock-full of character and a cool, homey-sorta vibe. You know the type of place I’m talking about: mismatched plates and cutlery on the tables, Value Village-esque paintings and pictures on the walls, slightly damaged panelling on the ceiling. It sorta looks like one day someone decided: ‘Well, we have a stove. Why don’t we open a restaurant?’ It seems random, but truthfully, it doesn’t matter all that much. If anything, those details make it better and much more comfortable.

There really isn’t that much for food here. They’ve got a couple of items that are fairly easy for the lone person working to make when the place gets busy, which it definitely does. Mostly it’s just the standard pressed sandwich kind of thing. No soup, no fries, no salad, as a side anyways. The friendly guy working there told me that it’s not that kinda place. He said that it’s mostly a cafe and a place to drink booze.

The menu is up on a chalkboard, and like I mentioned, it mostly has pressed sandwiches, like grilled cheese with apples and Tandoori chicken stuffed Naan bread. The sandwiches certainly aren’t bad, but sadly, the majority of the stuff they make seems to have been brought in with little of it made in-house, like the Naan bread. The Naan was the kinda stuff pressed and packaged somewhere distant, and then bought at some grocery retail giant. It definitely would have been better if they worked with someone local to get some truly authentic stuff. They do have quite a few baked goods too. I’m not sure if those were made in-house or not, but they look nice next to a cup of the great coffee they serve.

I’ve seen some pictures of brunch items at Holy Oak, like eggs Benny, but based on when I was there I couldn’t see that happening. Maybe they do bring someone in on the weekends to cook, but they guy working never mentioned it to me when I asked him about the food or the limited menu.

I went during the week for lunch, and this little place was pretty packed. Mostly with twenty and thirty somethings in front of laptops. It seems like a pretty cool place to work for those of us that frequent coffee shops for that sorta thing, because there really isn’t much else in the neighborhood that offers it. It’s cozy and comfortable, and I could easily see myself sitting there with a coffee, comfortably typing away.

Holy Cafe is a neat place, but it certainly doesn’t warrant a big trip to get to it. If you happen to be in the neighborhood and you’re looking for a comfortable place to soak up WiFi and get a decent cup of coffee, Holy Oak can definitely provide. But it doesn’t offer much more than that.

- Andre

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Posted on February 23, 2011 by in The Junction

3 stars

- As I’m writing this, I already know a lot of people are going to disagree with me. After all, the arrival of littlefish in the Junction has definitely been well received. The neighbourhood has been waiting an awfully long time for a cool, hipster-worthy brunch spot. Unfortunately, the arrival of littlefish hasn’t completely filled that void just yet. They still have a few kinks to work out, but don’t give up on them yet. I won’t, but only because I really want to love it.

Ok. First off, this is a pretty cool restaurant. Besides the obviously brilliant name, littlefish is a great little place to grab weekend brunch. It’s small, only about 8 tables or so, but that just makes it all-the-more cozier and comfortable. It’s a long, narrow space filled with exposed red brick and shiny metal airducts. The daily specials, scrawled and displayed on a suspended chalkboard, are imaginative, original, and well-thought-out.

The brunch menu is pretty much what you’d expect to see. They have everything from French toast and eggs benedict to pancakes and crepes. Best of all, they seem to make everything from scratch with good ingredients.

The staff goes out of their way to be friendly and to make sure you have everything you need to feel comfortable. Constantly being checked on, I never found myself without a full cup of hot coffee, but I suppose that’s sort of expected in a place that only seats about 30 people.

The thing that’s not expected in a place this size is the ridiculous wait time for food. When I was there, it seemed as though everyone in the whole place waited 45 minutes to an hour for their orders to arrive; I know I definitely did. If they were understaffed, I couldn’t understand it; there were at least 5 people in the exposed kitchen, none of them seeming to be moving with any sense of urgency. Definitely not understaffed here. The whole place seemed to be in a state of chaos. The front counter was covered with papers and dishes, and the visible part of the kitchen was overcrowded with food containers and crowded counterspaces. Possibly it was organized chaos, but just barely contained.

People rave about the food here, but I really don’t see it. My eggs benny was, meh, not bad I suppose, but they certainly weren’t anything to get excited about. They were warm but not hot, and the side of potatoes was mostly burned. My daughter had their now ‘Internet famous’ French toast. With burned edges on an overcrowded plate, they were even less than meh.

Make no mistake though, this place was busy. Newcomers are put on a couch to wait until a table vacates, but they are offered coffee. If you’re planning on getting a table on the weekend, be prepared to wait. So why so busy? Personally, I think a lot of it has to do with the neighbourhood’s lack of options. I’d be willing to bet that although littlefish may be doing well in the Junction, had they been on a more brunch heavy area, like West Queen West, they may not be doing as well as they are now.

So would I go back to littlefish? Sure. I’d like to give them another chance. I think the whole neighbourhood would. After all, the Junction needs a place like littlefish as much as littlefish needs a neighbourhood like the Junction.

– Andre

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